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The Residence

 

The Residence

Residenza 1 IN GRANDE

The story of Villa Firenze begins in 1925, when Mrs. Blanche Estabrook Roebling O’Brien, and her husband, Col. Arthur O’Brien, purchase 22 acres in the heart of Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park. The couple contracts architect Russell O. Kluge and designer H.F. Huber to build a mansion on the site and the Tudor-style structure in gray fieldstone is completed in 1927 and christened Estabrook. It immediately becomes a meeting place for Washington’s high society and hosts some of the city’s most prestigious events, from the societal debut of Mrs. O’Brien’s eldest daughter to receptions with prominent guests, including then-President Hoover.

In 1930, the property becomes the Residence of Ambassador John Peleny heralding the villa’s diplomatic future.

In 1941, the mansion is sold to Col. Robert Guggenheim and his wife Polly. A devote of Italian art, Col. Guggenheim rechristens the villa with the name of his mother, Florence. Villa Firenze is born.

Residenza 7

The Guggenheim’s undertake a massive renovation to the mansion that leaves it very similar to today’s Villa Firenze. No modifications are made to the exterior, but the interior spaces are dramatically transformed to make them lighter, airier and more in keeping with the tastes of the new owners. Thanks to Polly Guggenheim’s keen and sophisticated eye and the Guggenheim’s community involvement, the mansion remains one of the most sought after venues of the city’s social scene. A good part of the furnishings, as well as two priceless portraits by Tiziano, are destroyed during a fire in the winter of 1946 while the owners are abroad. Architect Michael Rosenaur is quickly contracted to oversee a restoration that lasts for several months.

After the death of Col. Guggenheim in 1959, Polly remarries John Logan and the couple remains in the mansion for 17 more years.

The refinement of the events held at Villa Firenze was duly noted by the press and a March 21, 1994 article in the Washington Post writes this about Polly Guggenheim Logan: “everything about her dinners was perfect, down to the number of valets behind the chairs of the guests.” In 1976, Polly Guggenheim Logan sells the property to the Government of Italy.

In 1977 Villa Firenze becomes the official Residence of the Ambassador of Italy to the United States of America. It is inaugurated by Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Since then, it is among the most prestigious diplomatic residences in the city.

 

The ancient Aeolian Organ of Villa Firenze 

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